Steinberg's (supermarket)

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This article is about the Canadian grocery store chain. For the American electronics store chain, see Steinberg's (electronics store).
Industry Supermarket
Fate Bankruptcy; supermarkets sold to IGA, Metro, & Provigo
Founded 1917
Defunct 1992
Headquarters Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Products Bakery, beer, dairy, deli, frozen foods, general grocery, liquor, meat & poultry, pharmacy, produce, seafood, snacks.
Subsidiaries Miracle Mart (Became M Stores in 1986)
Les 5 Saisons
Valdi Foods
Cardinal Distributors
Miracle Food Mart

Steinberg's (renamed Steinberg in 1961) was a Canadian grocery store chain that mainly operated in the province of Quebec. In addition to its flagship supermarket chain, the company operated several subsidiaries across the country. The company went bankrupt in 1992, after 75 years in business.


Steinberg's began as a grocery store founded in 1917 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada by Jewish-Hungarian immigrant, Ida Steinberg. Her five sons, led by Sam Steinberg, grew the company from a tiny storefront on St. Lawrence Boulevard into the most popular and largest supermarket chain in Quebec.[1] It was the first to create the "supermarket" concept in Quebec, in 1934, with expansions into Ontario (primarily the Ottawa area) and parts of New Brunswick.[2]


Steinberg's eventually entered the real estate market in 1952 under the name Ivanhoe Investments and owned several shopping centres. Ivanhoe turned out to be one of Steinberg's most profitable ventures and still exists today under the name Ivanhoe Cambridge. Steinberg's also had holdings in food production and distribution.[3]

In keeping with increasing French language pressures in Quebec, Steinberg's dropped the possessive "'s" from its name to become "Steinberg" in 1961. This was accompanied with the introduction of a new logo as shown above this article (the previous logo had consisted of Sam Steinberg's personal signature). Despite the change, the chain continued to be referred to as "Steinberg's" among the English-speaking public and media throughout its history and beyond.[4]

Sam Steinberg

For several decades, and until the late 1980s, Steinberg's was the largest supermarket chain in the province of Quebec. Store outlets could be spotted in nearly every district of the island of Montreal and was a major competitor for chains like Provigo and Metro. Sam Steinberg was one of the first employers to implement mandatory bilingualism (English and French) for all his personnel and as a result, the company became so entrenched in Quebec culture that among French speakers, "Je fais mon Steinberg" ("I'm doing my Steinberg's") became a synonym for going grocery shopping, regardless of supermarket chain.

The chain expanded into Ontario beyond the Ottawa area, typically using the Miracle Food Mart and Miracle Ultra Mart banner for its Ontario supermarkets outside of Eastern Ontario.

At one point a hypermarket was introduced called Steinberg Beaucoup, which consisted of a Steinberg's grocery, a Miracle Mart department store and Le Quick and Pik-Nik restaurants, all under the same roof.

Steinberg's owned and operated several well-known businesses:

  • Miracle Mart, a discount department store chain (led by daughter Mitzi and renamed "M" store in 1986), carried clothing, toys, household appliances and goods. The "M" department stores ceased operations shortly after Steinberg's went bankrupt.
  • Miracle Food Mart, a supermarket chain operating in the Ontario regions where there were no stores of the grocery chain Steinberg's proper.
  • Valdi, a limited assortment (discount) grocery chain in Ontario and the western provinces, Valdi was founded in 1979.[3]
  • Pik-Nik, popular snack-bars operating in shopping malls.
  • Le Quick, a restaurant chain
  • Cardinal Distributors, a mail-order gift catalogue that merged in 1980 with Consumers Distributing.


Trouble started brewing for the chain after the death of Sam Steinberg in 1978; his laissez-faire dealings with the union and lack of a succession plan for the company began its decline. Things worsened rapidly when a power struggle developed between his daughter Mitzi, her husband Mel Dobrin, daughter Marilyn Steinberg Cobrin and daughter Evelyn Steinberg.

The Miracle Food Mart and Ultra Food & Drug stores in Ontario were sold to A&P Canada, who converted the Miracle Food Mart stores to its "A&P" and "Dominion" banners. The Ottawa locations of Steinberg's were bought by Loblaws and either converted to "Loblaws" or "Your Independent Grocer" banners or closed outright.

By the end of the 1980s, rising costs and increased competition were taking their toll, and Steinberg's was placed on the auction block for an estimated $1.5 billion. The Ontario-based Loblaws chain initially attempted to acquire Steinberg's, a move blocked by the Quebec provincial government on nationalist grounds. It arranged for the firm to be purchased by Socanav, a shipping firm with no experience in retail.

M stores logo

End of Steinberg's[edit]

The Socanav-run Steinberg's foundered within a couple of years, and Loblaw again attempted to buy the chain. They were again foiled by the Quebec government, who arranged for Steinberg's to be purchased by its two major local competitors Metro Richelieu and Provigo. To avoid accusations of monopoly, Metro and Provigo sold some Steinberg's stores to IGA.

By mid-1992, Steinberg's and its department store M disappeared, as the Steinberg's stores were absorbed and converted by its competitors, and the M stores were closed. Valdi Foods remained a company subsidiary until the stores in the western provinces were closed in 1991/92.

Although Steinberg's, Miracle Mart/M, Miracle Food Mart, Valdi and Cardinal Distributors are now defunct, Sam Steinberg is survived by two of its companies which are still in business today. The first is his real estate company Ivanhoe (which absorbed Cambridge Shopping Centres Ltd in 2001 to become Ivanhoe Cambridge). The second is Pik-Nik, his restaurant chain founded in 1966.[3] Michael Steinburg, a grandson, opened a health and local produce-oriented grocery store in 1973.[5] The "Herb and Spice Shop" expanded and declined and now consists of two Ottawa locations with the same name but different businesses.

Succession for the Steinberg's grocery chain was the subject of a 1974 National Film Board of Canada documentary by Arthur Hammond entitled After Mr. Sam.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ DeWolf, Christopher (April 18, 2007). "Yiddishkayt and Soviet Spies: Life on the Main". URBANPHOTO. Retrieved 2009-06-13. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c Funding
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hammond, Arthur (1974). "After Mr. Sam". Documentary film. Montreal: National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 17 September 2012.